With the arrival of the New Year, it's time to take an early look at what I hope 2013 brings to MLS. On the wish list for the coming season, I'm wishing:
1. That Sebastien Le Toux returns as if he never left.
The hard working forward had 25 goals and 20 assists in his first two years with the club and was by far the club's most popular player. Here's to a successful return to the Union.
2. That improving young players continue to grow for the Union
Jack McInerney is coming off of an eight goal breakout year, and I believe the best is still yet to come. Amobi Okugo became a regular starter once John Hackworth took charge of the team, starting as a central defender next to Carlos Valdes. Whether he plays as a central defender or goes back to his normal central midfielder spot, he has tremendous upside.
3. That Landon Donovan continues to be a part of MLS and the U.S. national team.
With 124 career MLS goals and 108 assists, he has clearly made an impact on soccer in this country. As he weighs his next move, soccer fans across the country should be hoping he continues. I hope that Landon takes a little time with his decision so that whatever he does, he will be committed to that choice. He can't take too much time though as the Galaxy will have huge shoes to fill, if he moves on to Europe or retires from the game.
4. That central defender Omar Gonzalez gets his shot with the national team and that he and other deserving MLS players will be given a look by U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
No excuse for MLS players to be in the background in a year where you don't just have World Cup Qualifying, but also the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
5. That MLS finds its 20th team sooner rather than later
I'm not a fan of 19 teams or 17 or 21 for that matter. Have an even number of teams to help with scheduling. We had too many teams play three games in eight nights last season, while also having lengthy spells where they had no games. One of the reasons is the unbalanced number of teams. If you have 20 teams, it is conceivable that everyone plays at least one game each weekend. As it stands now, some team is always off.
6. That at some point the salary cap is increased by at least a half million dollars.
Easy for me to say since it's not my money, but an extra $500k will get you one impact player or two very good starters if you make the correct personnel decisions.
7. That Toronto FC finally gets it right.
I do feel bad for the Toronto fans that have supported this team from the start. Too many coaches, too many different visions, led to too many mistakes and no playoffs in their six-year history. Toronto supporters deserve better.
8. That Chivas USA sticks to a plan to make their franchise viable.
Similar problems like Toronto in terms of their identity. What are they looking for? You want the team to be more of a Mexican team; that's great but only if you bring in quality Mexican players. If they were to do that, they can be successful both on the field and off. It's tough to win out west when you figure San Jose, Seattle, Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy look to be clearly better than the rest of the pack.
9. That an MLS team can win the CONCACAF Champions League and compete in December at the FIFA Club World Cup.
The Los Angeles Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, and Seattle Sounders all have a legitimate shot at it. It would be great for MLS to see one of their teams in this competition.
10. That MLS will look south as they make expansion plans.
I know the league wants a second team in New York, but if you want to play games with the weather by playing games in early March and having MLS Cup played on Dec. 1, then it's time to think about some warmer climates in good television markets. Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando are potentially good choices. You could also look at another part of the country with a favorable climate such as San Diego, Phoenix, or San Antonio.
Those are just some of the wishes for the 2013 MLS season.
To the Philadelphia Union players, coaches, staff, and fans, wish you all a great and safe New Year.